On Monday 21st September the northern bottlenose whale nicknamed Gilbert who had been repeatedly seen off Bournemouth was found dead. Gilbert, who was in fact female, was found in the shallow water of Alum Chine, Bournemouth, at the same place that she was consistently seen a few days before.
There was speculation that the cause of death had been entanglement in fishing gear. Although the whale had sustained some injuries from entanglement, the post mortem showed that the stomach was empty implying that the animal had not fed in some time. Northern bottlenose whales gather all their water from the squid they eat during deep dives and the English Channel doesn’t have any suitable prey. It is most likely that Gilbert died of dehydration and kidney failure. Northern bottlenose whales are endemic to the north Atlantic and it is clear from the sightings reports that Gilbert was very disorientated and had taken a wrong turn on it’s migration route at some stage.
Since the famous northern bottlenose whale in 2006 that died after swimming up the River Thames, there have been around 10 sightings and strandings of the same species. It is not known whether the publicity from the Thames whale has caused this species to be more easily recognised or if they are frequenting British waters more often in recent years.